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Kevin LaValle

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro stand with VFW Post 400 members on the new sidewalk across from Suffolk County Community College in Selden. Photo from Dan Losquadro's office

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) and Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) joined with members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Sgt. Santora/Staff Sgt. Bonacasa Memorial Post 400 to announce the completion of new sidewalks from the VFW to the traffic signal at the entrance to the Ammerman Campus on Suffolk County Community College’s Selden campus on College Road. In addition, the Brookhaven Highway Department installed a pedestrian crossing at the signal.

“The enhancements made along College Road, across from both the VFW and SCCC, will allow for increased pedestrian safety in the area,” Losquadro said.

The highway superintendent said the VFW Memorial Post 400 offered the use of its parking lot as an overflow lot for students from Suffolk County Community College, many of them returning vets.

“Vehicle and pedestrian traffic is very heavy in the area around the college and the new sidewalk will make it much safer for all, especially for our student veterans,” LaValle said. “I thank Superintendent Losquadro and the Highway Department for the work that they did to complete this project.”

VFW Memorial Post 400 Commander John Rago also extended thanks to all of the Town of Brookhaven members involved in the project.

“They may think that they built a sidewalk and a crosswalk,” Rago said, “but what they really built is a bridge that connects those veterans who attend Suffolk County Community College with our VFW Post, where they can receive support from fellow veterans.”

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Councilman Kevin LaValle stand on the freshly paved 43rd Street in Centereach. Photo from Losquadro’s office

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) joined with Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) to announce the completion of $1.4 million, 23-road paving project near Centereach High School and Dawnwood Middle School.

In addition to the replacement of 4,100 square feet of aprons and 2,700 linear feet of curb, this project included tree trimming; replacing area signs and guide rails; the addition of handicap ramps at the existing crosswalk by the middle school; milling and paving.

“This was an extensive paving project that addressed the concerns of area residents, motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as faculty and students in the Middle Country school district,” Losquadro said. “I am grateful that we were able to schedule and successfully complete this project during the summer.”

Roads paved during this project were 43rd Street, 57th Street, Arlene Court, Dawn Drive, Dusk Drive, Edwin Street, Forest Court, Forest Road, Irene Court, Kerry Court, Linda Drive, Linden Street, Market Street, Martha Street, Michael Court, Midday Drive, Morning Drive, Nikki Court, Noel Drive, Peggy Court, Stanley Drive, Sunset Drive and Vining Street.

“I thank Superintendent Dan Losquadro and the hardworking men and women of the Highway Department for working diligently in such high temperatures over the past couple of weeks,” LaValle said. “It was important to ensure the completion of this project occurred prior to school beginning next month. I am happy to see this project completed which positively affects the entire Centereach community.”

Director of Suffolk County's Vetereans Service Agency's Human Services Divison, Thomas Ronayne; Rocky Point VFW Post Commander Joe Cognitore; Brian Fabian, executive of Four Seasons Sunrooms & Windows; Landmark Properties owner Mark Baisch and Councilman Kevin LaValle teamed up to help build a new home for a veteran in Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County has a rich stock of heroes, and lawmakers this week were making special moves to say thanks.

“Of 62 counties nobody has more veterans who call their county home then we do right here,” said Thomas Ronayne, Director of the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency’s Human Service Division.

So with boasting so many veterans should come a big way of thanking those who return from their huge acts of service. And Rocky Point continues to do just that.

Mark Baisch, a developer and owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, first met VFW Fischer/Hewins Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore at a fundraiser that Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) hosted. Baisch said he didn’t know anyone in the room except for Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden).

While speaking, Baisch said Cognitore lamented to him that he’d like to do more for returning veterans.

Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties, thanks all those who have helped make building homes for returning veterans possible. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties, thanks all those who have helped make building homes for returning veterans possible. Photo by Desirée Keegan

That’s where the idea of building homes came about, after Baisch mentioned a small piece of property in Sound Beach back in 2009. Since then, the two have partnered to build 10 homes for returning veterans, and will soon break ground on the 11th and 12th houses, the next being on Helm Avenue in Miller Place.

“It just shows you how little things can happen and can foster themselves into things like this,” Baisch said of his “crazy, chance meeting” that he and Cognitore had. “We are delivering homes nine and 10 on June 6. ‘D-Day’ is going to be delivery day for us this year.’”

It was no small undertaking, and Baisch mentioned that besides Cognitore’s help, he couldn’t have done it without the help of his employees who work tirelessly to get the job done, and the county and town for taking care of permits, entitlement of land and sanitary flow credits.

“Everyone seems to use me as the catalyst or the lightening rod, but the county and the town do the best that they can to make sure that this program goes off without a hitch,” he said.

LaValle said that what he does working with those like Baisch and Cognitore is important to the community.

“What started with a humble beginning — this is what we have to do for our veterans — government working with the private sector to put our veterans first and make sure we take care of the people that take care of us and put their lives at risk for our freedoms here at home,” he said.

And others have followed suit.

Four Seasons Sunrooms in Holbrook donated 22 windows and a sliding glass door toward the completion of the next home in Miller Place. LaValle went to high school with Cammie Manganello, marking manager for the company, who reached out to him because she wanted to get involved.

“I gave Mark a call and everything played out from there,” she said. “I think the work they do is excellent. These are people that protect us and they give us the life that we have, so if we can give back in any way, absolutely we should be doing it.”

Windows like the one scene here are being donated by Four Seasons Sunrooms & Windows in Holbrook toward the construction of a home for a veteran in Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Windows like the one scene here are being donated by Four Seasons Sunrooms & Windows in Holbrook toward the construction of a home for a veteran in Miller Place. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Baisch said the company has never received a donation of windows before, which is a big purchase. Manganello and others hope the donation, and the program that Baisch and Cognitore have created, serve as a model to show others what they can be doing.

“It’s amazing on Long Island to see how much they care,” LaValle said of companies like Landmark Properties and Four Seasons Sunrooms. “It’s not always about the bottom line to many of our builders here and Mark is a prime example of that. He gives back.”

Ronayne said he agrees, adding that even the veterans working tirelessly, almost entirely behind the scenes for what veterans deserve and have earned.

He pointed out most specifically, the work Cognitore has done.

“We are able to be a part of something so important and so incredibly unique here on Long Island,” Ronayne said. “Don’t underestimate Joe Cognitore. I always look to see if his wings are visible under his jacket because he really has become a guardian angel to countless veterans. He’s a presence in the community, on Long Island, as a national advocate — every step he takes is intended to serve veterans of this great nation.”

Baisch said that all those involved are just good people doing the right thing, and added he is honored to be involved in the process.

“I will keep doing this … I’m not going to stop,” he said. “I love this program and I have no plan to stop doing it. It’s turned out to be something much more than I ever envisioned when Joe and I started talking about doing this.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine takes his oath of office at the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Brookhaven is back in business.

Elected officials, their family members and other residents packed into the Town of Brookhaven auditorium in Farmingville on Jan. 7 to witness Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) being sworn into his second full term in office alongside fellow recently elected and re-elected board members, including board newcomer Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Middle Island) and other town officials.

Loguercio said he was also in good spirits. He said the ceremony was a good way to begin “the long journey to continue helping the community.”

Back in November, Loguercio won the race for the 4th District — a position previously held by former Councilwoman Connie Kepert, a Democrat.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Thursday’s ceremony was a day of celebration that helped validate how residents voted during the 2015 elections. Bonner added “they like to make it open to the public so they could see the whole process and take part in it.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In light of the board’s past work, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) highlighted Romaine’s performance as the supervisor saying that Romaine has always been one of the fiercest and most passionate advocates for what he believes in.

“That’s what leadership is about really,” Bellone said. “Putting aside the things that will at the end of the day do not really matter to people’s lives but what will make our communities and our town and our country a better place.”

Although residents saw the supervisor and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) officially sworn into their terms for the first time on Thursday, other elected officials recently elected to the board were officially sworn in at a previous event held on Tuesday Jan. 5. While several councilmembers were no strangers to the ceremony, the swearing in process still never gets boring, one North Shore lawmaker said.

Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro takes his oath of office for the first time at the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro takes his oath of office at the 2016 inauguration ceremony at the Town of Brookhaven headquarters. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“I’m really excited to get started again,” said Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) before the ceremony. “It was a great first two years — we accomplished a great deal. I’m really looking forward to the next two years.”

Romaine was sworn in last by Judge Judith Pascale, who also spoke highly of the supervisor and his leadership before he took his oath of office. Despite the praise, Romaine admitted that addressing challenges in the town is a group effort.

“Working in concert with our colleagues at Suffolk County and New York State will determine in large part the future we face,” Romaine said in his speech following his oath. “I pledge to work with my town board to find common purpose. To address these challenges head on and to make decisions necessary for a prosperous future and one that serves all the residents of this town.”

But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The incumbents won big on Suffolk County’s North Shore this Election Day, with only a couple real upsets at the county and town levels.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) handily won a second term at the helm against his Republican challenger, lawyer Jim O’Connor, with 57 percent of the vote.

Bellone thanked many people for his victory and also thanked his opponent for a “good race.”

Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Tonight the people of Suffolk County delivered a mandate: to advance the issues we talked about in this campaign,” he said, at the Democratic Election Night headquarters in Hauppauge. “To continue the reform government so that we can protect taxpayers, make government more efficient and effective. To reverse the decades of decline that we have seen in water quality so that we can protect this precious natural resource for ourselves and future generations.”

He vowed that he would work hard for the voters.

“To the people of Suffolk County: I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me and this incredible team of legislators. I can guarantee you we will repay that confidence by working hard every single day to make progress on the issues that matter to you and to you families. We may celebrate a little bit tonight but that work begins tomorrow.”

Though Bellone was the clear winner early on, O’Connor said he was proud of his campaign.

“I think we talked about the issues that need to be talked about here on Long Island,” he said.

Despite the results, the challenger enjoyed himself: “I love this. … In America we run for office, we put our ideas forward and we let the people decide.”

Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker's Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker’s Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbents from Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns won re-election, one of them by a razor-thin margin: Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who represents the 6th District, was leading her challenger by just one vote after the polls closed. It was not immediately clear if absentee ballots would tilt the scales in the favor of Republican candidate Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent. But Anker said Tuesday night that she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Tricarico felt the same way.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said before results were in. “This shows … that people are looking for a change. That’s what I’ve been offering.”

According to Tricarico, Republican absentee ballots outnumbered those of the Democrats, which he said boosts his confidence.

But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer was calling it in the other direction: “Sarah Anker — mark my words — in about two weeks will be a newly re-elected legislator.”

Anker said her election demonstrates that each vote counts. Asked what could have led to such a close race, the legislator said she’s got the political cards stacked against her as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Most political strategists have never understood how I won it the past three times, much less this fourth time,” she said. “But I feel it’s because the people appreciate what I do. They’re looking for leadership.”

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the 5th District legislator, beat Republican challenger Donna Cumella, of Port Jefferson Station, with 63 percent of the vote. In the 13th, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) beat Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro with more than 70 percent of the total.

In Huntington, Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) won his final term in the 16th District against Republican attorney Tom McNally with 60 percent of the vote.

“We understand what’s on the minds of our constituents, we listen to our constituents, and we deliver for our constituents,” Stern said.

Also, Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) took the 18th District against his challenger from the right, Grant Lally, after garnering 56 percent of the votes.

“It’s exhilarating,” a joyous Spencer said. “It’s really is. After two years of hard work and six-month campaign, to really have the people recognize I’m giving my heart and soul to try to support us means a lot to me.”

Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Despite her loss, Cumella stayed positive and said she wouldn’t let this year’s election deter her from running for the same position in the future. She said she is now “a little bit more educated with the political arena.”

About her victory over that Republican, Hahn said, “I’m really gratified by the confidence the community has shown in me and I very much appreciate it and I plan to work just as hard as I’ve worked in the last four years.”

Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the 4th District legislator, and the 12th District’s Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) were effectively unopposed for re-election and secured their next terms.

“I’m ecstatic,” Muratore said. “Maybe we can bring some of our ideas to the table … We’re about doing the right things to people.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kennedy said she did not spend time campaigning and was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to go home and go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ready to vote on the Operating Budget Committee board,” she said.

Brookhaven Town saw its supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), and its highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), re-elected easily — Romaine won 72 percent of the votes against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko and Losquadro beat out his own Democratic opponent, Jason Kontzamanys, with 69 percent of the voters’ support.

Romaine called his landslide victory “encouraging” and Losquadro said, “I really feel that this is a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in the town.”

“It’s such a big department, and really, for the fundamental services that people expect from their tax dollars are that their roads are safe, cleared of snow and debris, and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to continue to do that work.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The three incumbents running for re-election to the Brookhaven Town Board on the North Shore were returned to their seats. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) beat Republican challenger Ed Garboski, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. She had 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent.

“I worked really hard,” she said Tuesday night. “The community came together.”

She has no small task ahead of her. If all of the election results stand, she will be the only Democrat on the Town Board next year, after her effectively unopposed North Shore colleagues Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won re-election, as did South Shore Republican Councilmen Dan Panico and Neil Foley. But Cartright’s lone Democratic colleague, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by Republican challenger Michael Loguercio Jr.

“I’m kind of speechless, which isn’t normally the case for me,” Bonner said about winning by a large margin. “I’m super, super excited to get started, move forward. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow.”

LaValle called his own win an “honor.”

Over in Huntington, town board incumbents Gene Cook (I) and Susan Berland (D) were returned to the board after a four-way race with 27 percent and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. Democratic challenger Keith Barrett and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson fell short, each garnering about 22 percent of the vote.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” Cook said Tuesday night. “I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso

Berland said she was “proud and humbled” to be re-elected.

“I just want to keep doing good things for the people of the town and making the town the best place it can possibly be,” she said.

Smithtown Town Board experienced a bit of an upset. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was re-elected to one of two board seats, after receiving 31 percent of the vote, but his colleague Bob Creighton (R) was unable to battle back after losing a Republican primary to newcomer Lisa Inzerillo.

Inzerillo was elected Tuesday night with 28 percent of the vote, as compared to Creighton’s 20 percent. The latter total was even lower than that of the lone Democratic candidate for Town Board, who lost after garnering just 22 percent of the vote.

Inzerillo held a private gathering at her home Tuesday night and did not respond to requests seeking comment, but took to her Facebook page to thank her team.

Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding
Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the support I received from residents,” she said. “It is very humbling to know my grassroots campaign was successful. I look forward to working with the new town board and working for the residents that elected me.”

Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer. Creighton apologized to his room of supporters Tuesday night, adding that he was “sorry things didn’t work out.”

About his defeat, Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.”

Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

Rohma Abbas, Giselle Barkley, Phil Corso, Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan, Kevin Redding and Eric Santiago contributed reporting.

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Kevin LaValle represents the 3rd Council District. Photo by Erika Karp

Kevin LaValle has only been a Brookhaven Town councilman for two years, but he’s been on the scene for much longer.

He got his feet wet working for Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore, which means he’s well-versed in Middle Country’s issues.

One of the things he did with his first term in the town was helping to finally acquire space for athletic fields in Selden, something the community desperately needed and had waited years for. LaValle started the project in Muratore’s office and then picked up the torch for the town when he was first elected. Now, Selden is on its way to have more sports and leisure space for kids and adults alike.

We have a feeling LaValle, a Republican who grew up in Middle Country, will only keep getting better as time goes on. He has shown high energy and commitment. Voters should re-elect him on Tuesday.

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Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), above, discusses the 2015 election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) is always on the move.

The 38-year-old Brookhaven Town councilman, who is running for a second term, said he is trying to bring energy back to his district.

“You want to get people back into government,” LaValle said during an interview at the Times Beacon Record Newspapers office. “[You] have to make people feel the government is their for them.”

His Democratic opponent, Christian DeGeorge, did not return a request for an interview.

One big accomplishment of LaValle’s first term was finishing negotiations for athletic fields by Hawkins Path Elementary School in Selden, near where Boyle Road meets Hawkins Road. The Middle Country area has long needed field space, and LaValle began targeting that property when he was an aide for Legislator Tom Muratore. The county now owns the land, and the town is utilizing it and making improvements to it.

LaValle said he wants to continue work on that property, perhaps adding a walking trail and a parking lot to make it easier for people to use.

Moving forward, taxes and road maintenance are two of the most important issues in the 3rd Council District, according to LaValle, who grew up in Centereach. He said he tried to prioritize the roads in need of maintenance, like filling potholes and improving drainage, in his past term and will continue to do so if re-elected.,

“I tell every resident this: We can’t pave every road. I’d love to pave every road, but we don’t have the money to do that.”

He also sees cleaning up graffiti as an important issue. Greentree Park in Farmingville, for one, has been tagged over and over. Since removing graffiti is costly, LaValle hopes to help law enforcement gather enough information to build a case and eventually catch those responsible for the graffitti.

To improve the flow of traffic and safety on the roads, LaValle wants to push more businesses along Middle Country Road to allow vehicular access between their properties.

“There’s so many entrances and exits [on Middle Country Road],” the councilman said. “There’s always somebody jumping out in front of you or the car in front of you. [It] backs up [the lane and] causes all the accidents.”

The cross-accesses would allow drivers to move between businesses without having to get back onto the road as frequently.

Regardless of the problem at hand, LaValle said action is important when it comes to improving the district.

“[A decision] may not change the problem tomorrow, but 20 years from now it could completely solve … a problem, so every decision you make, you always have to think four or five steps ahead.”